Léo Delibes


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Léo Delibes (1836-1891) was born in St. Germain du Val. As a child, he learned music from his mother, a talented amateur musician, and his uncle. At the age of 12, he entered Paris Conservatoire and became a pupil of Adolphe Adam, the French composer famous for the ballet Giselle. Delibes became a church organist, but he was drawn to the theater, writing operettas in the style of Adam, who remained a lasting influence in his life.

Renowned as a composer for dance, Delibes had a gift for illustrating action, creating atmosphere, and inspiring movement. The decisive advance in his career came in 1870, with his full-length ballet Coppélia, which includes melodic national dances, descriptive passages introducing the main characters, and musical effects that have captured audiences for more than one hundred years. His other ballets include Sylvia (1876) and also La Source (1866), which he wrote with Ludwig Minkus.

Delibes also composed operas, the last to be completed being Lakmé (1883), which contains the famous coloratura showpiece, the Bell Song (“Où va la jeune Indoue”), and the Flower Duet. His operas impressed Tchaikovsky enough for the composer to rate Delibes more highly than Brahms.